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Sunset 8/1/18

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 20:48
A good one to start August with, I’d say.  

A Summary of How the Rest of My Trip To NYC Went

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 12:58
Ah, yes, the Big Apple! I have no idea why they call it that, but in case you didn’t read my last post, that’s where I was last week! Instead of going to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Meg and I went to the Brooklyn Museum because it was a hundred million degrees outside and the […]

The Big Idea: Claire O’Dell

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 07/31/2018 - 14:49
A dash of fan fiction, a smidge of authorial inspiration and a dollop of a world-famous investigator adds up to a brand-new concoction in Claire O’Dell’s novel A Study in Honor. How did this all come about? As O’Dell will tell you, it was elementary. CLAIRE O’DELL: A Study in Honor is all Jim Hines’s […]

Whoops It’s Past 6pm and I Haven’t Posted Today So Here’s a Video of a Song I Like

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 07/30/2018 - 18:13
The video itself is enigmatic (who are all these young people doing slightly odd things while looking miserable? Would they be less miserable if they, like, stopped posing and went to get snacks?), but the song is good and the band, The Naked and Famous, is one of my favorites to have come out in […]

The True Founder of our Revolution - Summing up.

Contrary Brin - Sun, 07/29/2018 - 18:01
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If I seem repetitive, it's because some crucial points keep not being made, in the fight over where to steer civilization. 

Sure, moral issues -- like a narcissistic toddler who steals thousands of children -- belong front and center, they cannot be the only battle front. Because confederates have been schooled to shrug aside moral arguments.

"While sappy-socialist liberals preach, we are the pragmatic competitors who innovate and invest and make America rich!"
  By styling themselves as defenders of enterprise and creative markets, oligarchs offer a rhetoric that attracts populist fervor from hardworking farmers and auto mechanics, who know that life is -- and at some level should be -- highly competitive. 
By ceding this ground to the New Lords, liberals make their worst mistake. Because liberalism is entirely justifiable in practical terms alone! In the health of creative markets. In terms of measurable outcomes. In the general, rising good of all. And especially in keeping faith with the Great Experiment of Freedom...
... and one of its principal founders: Adam Smith.

== A Great Rediscovery ==

The Financial Times (U.K.) is so vastly better then any of its largely lobotomized (or else oligarchy-suborned) U.S. equivalents. A recently published essay - How Adam Smith would fix capitalism - summons what I’ve pushed for years — a rediscovery of this co-founder — along with Franklin and those Americans — of our great, Periclean experiment. Writer Jesse Norman (a British Member of Parliament) gets Smith, showing that the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments was a deeply caring man, who wanted a balanced use of market forces to benefit everyone, truly raising all boats. 
Yes, Smith extolled the unmatched creative power of competition. But the author of The Wealth of Nations, gazed across 6000 years of wretched history and drew a clear conclusion — that humans who gain undue power tend to use it to cheat. To warp markets until they no longer function. 

We forget that the actual Boston Tea Party, and the American Revolution, were against a king and his crony oligarchs who commanded that all commerce pass through their docks, paying extortion to lordly monopolists on everything from paper to porcelain, rents that they never earned. The very cheating Adam Smith denounced… and the very opposite lesson of today’s raving “tea-party” confederates.
Those betraying Smith are the ones who most-often claim to extol him, yet do everything in their power to enhance cheating by today’s oligarchs. Says Jesse Norman: 

“…what matters is not the largely empty rhetoric of “free markets”, but the reality of effective competition. And effective competition requires mechanisms that force companies to internalise their own costs and not push them on to others, that bear down on crony capitalism, rent extraction, “insider” vs “outsider” asymmetries of information and power, and political lobbying.”
To Norman’s list, I would add two more vital ways that liberal “market meddling” is highly justifiable in Smithian terms:
1. Adjusting market forces to incorporate “externalities” like the good of our posterity, our grandchildren and the ecosystem they’ll depend upon. Adam Smith wrote repeatedly that a society’s values can legitimately be emphasized, so long as the resulting strictures (e.g. tobacco or carbon taxes) are simple, fair, consistent and not another excuse for cheating. 
2. Stop wasting talent. A nation that chooses to maximize the feedstock of confident, skilled, joyfully ready competitors is one that will maximize the effectiveness of markets. And hence it is a society that invests in children, in education and health and civil rights, maximizing opportunity without meddling overmuch in equalizing outcomes.  Even the doyen of conservative (not-fascist) economics -- Friedrich Hayek -- conceded this point.
Norman makes clear that this is a matter of survival for any system that seeks the immense benefits of flat-fair-open market accountability: 
     “This is a complex and nuanced message, as befits our ever more complex world. It is threatening enough to current orthodoxies that many on all sides, libertarian and socialist, will resist it. Properly understood, however, these Smithian ideas remain absolutely fundamental to any attempt to defend, reform or renew the market system.”
Now, for a shocker that should not surprise. Jesse Norman is the Conservative Party MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire, and the author of a biography of Edmund Burke: The First Conservative.  And clearly, the word “conservative” has an older, better meaning, over there. He has a new book out in September: Adam Smith: Father of Economics.
== The rediscovery continues ==
Evonomics is back on high octane. Jonathan Haidt begins a series called 'Darwin's business' that starts by appraising the CEO of Sears, whose management approach - modeled on Ayn Rand - has taken an American giant and corporate icon to the verge of utter collapse. Also, Peter Turchin asks whether morality can apply to capitalism. 
Ironies abound. For example, Sears earlier (1992) abandoned its 140 year old mail order business at the very moment the first online stores set up on the Web. Can you believe that coincidence? Sears had been poised to own it all... to be Amazon-squared... and threw it all away! 

But the deeper irony in these two articles is simpler. It is only on a liberal site like Evonomics that you find bright folks talking seriously about Adam Smith, and whether it might be possible to rescue market competitive enterprise from its worst enemies across 6000 years...
...not 'socialists,' but cheaters and shortsighted fools.
Alas, liberals are supposed to be the smart ones, on this side of the Atlantic. But you’ll not find one in a hundred who know that their entire movement had a few fathers other than ol’ Ben Franklin and that crew.  And number one on that list was Adam Smith. Reclaim him.
== The roots of the Confederate Counter-Attack ==
I’ve somewhat famously - or infamously - called our present predicament “Phase 8” of an American Civil war that has recurred since 1778, when General Cornwallis knew he would find more romantics loyal to King and Lords, down south. Later, the plantation/slave-owning caste filled the top niche that all-too easily plunges into cheating, while crushing fair competition - the same corrupt modality that Adam Smith denounced.
What about the “Greatest Generation” (GG) that overcame the First Depression, smashed Hitler, contained communism, built American science, got us to the moon, and crafted the greatest middle class in history? Is that “when America was great?" (Ask that question incessantly!)

You mean back then the GG's favorite living human was FDR? In that era of strong unions and spectacular economic growth — when the great push to reform our racial and gender and other blindnesses began? When we achieved a social structure (for white males at first, but then others) flatter than any ever known.  Markets were regulated to keep competition flat, and the results were inarguable.
Except there were a few arguing for a return older ways. Based upon a core germ of truth — that government regulation can sometimes become cloying or stifling -- they began a cult that grew to declare evil any and all regulation to keep competition flat or fair…  a cult filled with incantations of loathing against the Greatest Generation’s methods for controlling cheating.
I’ve spoken of Milton Friedman, whose incantations led to the shrinking of corporate ROI (Return on Investment) horizons from ten years to today’s ten weeks. But in a truly scary article, Lynn Parramore describes historian Nancy MacLean’s book - Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America - about Nobel laureate James Buchanan, “who is the intellectual linchpin of the Koch-funded attack on democratic institutions.” 

In works like Property as a Guarantor of Liberty (1993).  Buchanan saw society as a cutthroat realm of makers (entrepreneurs) constantly under siege by takers (everybody else) His own language was often more stark, warning the alleged “prey” of “parasites” and “predators” out to fleece them.
Never mind that feudalism -- (rule by the owner caste) -- had 6000 years to prove its case, and exactly zero examples of good governance. What Buchanan illustrates is the way that aristocrats and their paid priests have suborned our natural, libertarian instincts, so that today hardly any libertarians ever even mention Smith’s core notion of flat-fair competition -- the "C-Word" -- anymore, parroting instead Buchanan’s (and Pharaoh’s) worship of the word, “property.”
“Adam Smith saw human beings as self-interested and hungry for personal power and material comfort, but he also acknowledged social instincts like compassion and fairness. Buchanan, in contrast, insisted that people were primarily driven by venal self-interest.”
If you have time, look at this essay and realize how long we have been complacent about this counter-attack by the old enemy of human freedom and creativity and happiness, a cabal of zero-sum fools who will win nothing, if they succeed in this oligarchic putsch.
Nothing but a ride in tumbrels.


 == Aaaaand... more about... Adam Smith...

I wrote a lot about this fellow, who liberals should rediscover and embrace, in order to free him from the right wingers and libertarians who always, always misquote and betray him.  Well, since OpenSalon dumped my work, let me offer a few quotations here, and a link to Blogging Adam Smith. Or actually read Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, a book that any politically-minded person should know, top to bottom. (See where I tie in Adam Smith with Hari Seldon and Isaac Asimov!) 
Start with what could be a slogan for liberalism.

No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.” 

The whole tenor of this next passage would, or should, outrage any Ayn Rand cultist. Smith certainly didn’t take the view that the important agents of capitalism were CEOs or even inventors.

“Observe the accommodation of the most common artificer or day-labourer in a civilized and thriving country, and you will perceive that the number of people whose industry a part, though a small part, has been employed in procuring him this accommodation, exceeds all computation.”

Then there is the natural trend, described by Marx, for industries to drift into monopoly or conspiratorial duopoly, a trend that our parents and grandparents wisely fought down under both Roosevelts.

“The monopolists, by keeping the market constantly understocked... sell their commodities much above the natural price... The price of monopoly is upon every occasion the highest which can be got. The natural price, or the price of free competition, on the contrary, is the lowest which can be taken....” 



And another passage skipped over by the libertarians: “We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters [cartels]; though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labour....” 

Modern context? See how Robert Reich explains the “Monopolization of America.” And be outraged that the Boomers let slide the wisdom of their parents and grandparents who adored Roosevelts for good reasons. (And why can't we find one?)
== Choose a side, libertarians ==
Finally, what all of this comes down to is a tactic for this civil war. Again and again I will remind you it is worthwhile ministering to libertarians! 

They share with you a central reflex -- Suspicion of Authority (SoA) -- though clever oligarchs have spent gushers to divert the movement away from ever casting that suspicious eye on them! 

Cozened into defending property at all cost, and forgetting the word competition, most of the libertarian movement is currently under complete control by those who bought and paid for it – Steve Forbes, the Kochs, and the lords’ wholly-owned propaganda arm, the Cato Institute.
It’s a pity! Libertarians – were they to learn from their endless failures at both election and prediction – might become a real force on the landscape of both ideas and political reform.  No one is asking them to stop questioning Big Government!  But to recognize a core historical fact:  that monopoly and feudal oligarchies have destroyed more glimmering eras of freedom and market creativity than all the government bureaucrats who ever lived.
Minister to them! They share so many of your basic, impudent, pro-freedom instincts. Tell your libertarian friends: 

"Stop letting the worst enemies of freedom bribe you into only hating on a secondary foe! The original American Revolution was not hatred of “government,” but a king and his cronies who used a gerrymandered Parliament to pass laws favoring the aristocracy, forcing all American commerce through their ports and wharves, buying from their monopolies. Do fight to keep the hand of government regulation light! But also fight to keep the hands of oligarchy off of our republic."
Cite a fellow who no libertarian ever reads anymore, so much wiser and smarter and more effective than Ayn bloody Rand that they aren’t arguably the same species.

. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

The Locus Award Arrives + Reminder About Hugo Award Voting

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 07/29/2018 - 17:02
I was thrilled when The Collapsing Empire was announced as the winner of the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, but was not present for the ceremony because one of my best friends on the planet was getting married, and, well, priorities. Fortunately the good people at Locus were kind enough to ship it […]

The End (Sort Of) Of the Landline

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 07/29/2018 - 15:08
It sometimes amazed people that we here at the Scalzi Compound still have a landline. We do, basically because I receive (terrible, horrible, low-speed) internet service through my phone company, and it’s basically cheaper to bundle it with a landline than to get it by itself. And also, because if the power goes down, the […]

Today’s Somewhat Unfortunate Event Involving a Kitten

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 07/27/2018 - 15:12
Smudge is a curious fellow, and also, when I use the bathroom, if there is no other human in the house, I don’t always close the door entirely. The confluence of these two facts today is why, while standing at the toilet today, doing my business, Smudge barged in and, needing to see what was […]

Crab Cakes, Ocean’s 8, the Ferry, and the Republic of Booza

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 07/27/2018 - 12:38
Hello, everyone! I hope you have all been having a fantastic week, I know I have been! New York has been awesome so far and it hasn’t rained nearly as much as I thought it would, so that’s a plus. Honestly, I haven’t done too much. I’m generally a pretty lazy person, so I might […]

The Big Idea: Theodora Goss

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 07/27/2018 - 10:56
For European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman, author Theodora Goss considers a famous Victorian book, character and author for an extended thought on who and what can truly be called a monster. Grab your stakes and let’s hammer this one home, shall we? THEODORA GOSS: In The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, I brought […]

A Little More On Recent Worldcon Stuff

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 07/26/2018 - 17:00
I just did a tweetstorm about the recent contrempts involving Worldcon. As many of you know, there was a dustup about programming (among other issues) for which the head of the Worldcon apologized and took action on, including bringing in a team headed up by Mary Robinette Kowal to help fix things. Here’s what I […]

The Big Idea: Craig DiLouie

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 07/26/2018 - 10:37
One of the great questions in literature, genre or otherwise, is: What makes a person a monster? In One of Us, author Craig DiLouie takes a crack at the question… and the answer. CRAIG DiLOUIE: My novel One of Us began as a misunderstood monster novel and ended up a much more ambitious examination of prejudice. […]

The Love-Hate Relationship With Travel

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 07/25/2018 - 17:51
Who doesn’t love traveling? Everyone loves a good vacation; so many amazing places to go, spectacles to behold, adventurous things to do, traveling is enriching and can be super awesome! Unfortunately, traveling is also expensive, and tiring, both physically, mentally, and emotionally. Personally, traveling is one of my favorite things to do. It’s so nice […]

Sci Fi Futures, here and now

Contrary Brin - Tue, 07/24/2018 - 18:23
Okay it's official.  I am author Guest of Honor at Westercon 2020 in Seattle, alongside other fabulous guests and even more fabulous readers, watchers and fans of far futures and farther-out ideas. So sign up for great 2020 visions -- And fight for an optimistic and confident civilization!

And hoping to see many of you at the World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, California (Silicon Valley) in August.
Hong Kong journalist Paul Kay interviews me in the (Hong Kong) South China Post, covering the gamut, from history and evolution to the future and science fiction's role in exploring the phenomenon of change. And while we're in the region...
My colleague Hao Jingfeng – author of the Hugo-winning story “Folding Beijing” – talks about cyber systems that might enable future cities to synergize, like living organisms. 
And Chinese SF scholar Wu Yan joined a passel of U.S. mavens, actors and futurists on a panel at Comicon International, celebrating the release of a 4K version of “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Warner Bros, honoring the film classic’s 50thAnniversary. Note Gary Lockwood and Keir Dullea on the far left… “Frank and Dave.”
Panel moderated by Dr. Erik Viirre, of UCSD's Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, where the sciences and arts come together to explore humanity's most unique gift.  Home of the TASAT Project!

== Depletion of a precious commodity: our World Rascal Resource ==
Jason Sheehan gives a terrific and open-eyed eulogy to our irreplaceable rascal, Harlan Ellison. Harlan was wickedly witty, profanely-provocative, yet generous to a fault. His penchant for brilliantly skewering all authority – including the bossy voices in our own heads --would have got him strangled in any other human civilization, yet in this one he lived – honored - to 84... decades longer than he swore he would, much to our benefit with startling, rambunctious stories that will echo for ages.
Hence, I list Harlan Ellison -- along with John Perry Barlow and others -- as among the most-American beings I knew. Most-Californian. Heck, like Ray Bradbury, Harlan was among the most-Angelino, and most alien-ready of humans. And indeed, perhaps he was beamed-up, to confront and shake and amuse and offend those out there who most deeply need it.
Solace to Susan, and to all who love disturbances in the force. (There’ll be others.) One regret? Harlan should have held out till Shatterday.
== Sci Fi Miscellany ==

Such a lovely article about the chummy roast-flame war between colleagues Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov.
The odd intersection of Science Fiction and Rock ’n Roll: in the newly released book: Strange Stars: David Bowie,Pop Music, and the Decade SciFi exploded, by Jason Heller
Here’s a seriously excellent and insightful podcast video by Simon Whistler on YouTube presenting a top ten list of novels that eerily and correctly predicted aspects of the future.  Books like Infinite Jest, Vonnegut’s Player Piano, Neuromancer and - counter-intuitively - Childhood’s End,  

Many of the on-targets have to do with creepy prescience about our, well, weird present-day politics, and on that note I would have added certain Heinleins. 

And yes, since you ask. Toward the very top of the list, I am just barely outranked by three heavyweights: H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley and… John Brunner for Stand on Zanzibar, a choice that won this fellow serious props and cred, in my book! 
All told a riveting and excellent podcast.

== Miscellaneous SF news ==
We liked the film A Quiet Place, very much. Emily Blunt is outrageously good.

In contrast, the new Lost In Space series, which started with some cool creativity, had one of the worst episodes (number 4) I have ever seen, in which not one of the characters makes even a single decision that makes even a scintilla of sense. A great example of how one director and writer can come close to killing a whole project. 

DOWNSIZING is a very weird movie that has many positive traits. For example, it is rare to see an sf'nal extrapolation of a new technology that is portrayed being used the way techs are actually used, in the real world... by everybody, instead of monopolized by conspirators or the rich. Many refreshing things... and some weird logic and bizarre/sudden turns in unexpected directions. Definitely more of an art film than you'd expect. And thought provoking, if weird.
ZION’S FICTION (or “Zi-Fi”) is the first authoritative volume  of Israeli fantastic literature. Showcasing a Foreword by Robert Silverberg, the book offers stories originally crafted in Hebrew, Russian and English by a gallery of genre-savvy Israeli writers. To be released in September, available for pre-order.
The mighty and charismatic science fiction author Cat Rambo has a new book in her “Tabat” sci-fantasy series. Check it out!                                                                                                   A cute rumination about super-villains, by Talin.
A vivid tech thriller that delves into mathematics, cyberwarfare and terrorism, try Matt Ginsberg's new novel - Factor Man.
The solution to the Apocalypse - from SMBC Comics.
A new Magazine - Martian - wants drabbles! Exact, super-short stories. I like the 250 word length. I try to put one of those in each of my collections. WIRED ran a contest for 6-word tales. (I won ;-) And there's the "One Page Screenplay Contest in LA. (Won that too.)  Is this a sign we’ve fully entered the Twitter era?  Wasn’t there a “Short Attention Span Theater” that -- 
-- oh, look, squirrel!
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

The Big Idea: Kali Wallace

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 07/24/2018 - 06:00
City of Islands is author Kali Wallace’s first children’s book, and in writing it, she was thinking about where the balances were in telling a story for children, and still telling a story with some complexity. For her Big Idea, she’s here to talk about finding that balance, especially in today’s times. KALI WALLACE: Adults […]

Beat Saber: AKA the Coolest Game Ever

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 07/23/2018 - 19:30
Hey, everyone! Hope you all had an awesome weekend. This weekend, thanks to my friend, I got to try virtual reality. More specifically, I played Beat Saber for like, three hours, and my arms are extremely sore. Beat Saber is this awesome rhythm game where you basically have two light sabers, red in the left […]

Being Seen at Worldcon

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 07/23/2018 - 15:49
A Twitter thread on the recent contrempts at Worldcon 76, where many newer writers (including some Hugo finalists) were not represented on the initial programming slate: 1. A thought about new(er) writers and Worldcons: My first Worldcon (and indeed convention) was in 2003. My novel Old Man's War wouldn't be published for two years. No […]

That Tor Library eBook Lending Thing

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 07/22/2018 - 17:19
Last week Tor Books announced that it would start windowing ebooks for libraries, which means that new ebook titles from Tor would now be available to libraries four months after their commercial release. So as an example, a book that’s released in August would be available to libraries in ebook form in November (print versions […]

Re-Discovering Adam Smith: Controlling the un-controllable. Laws for Robots? For corporations? Creating healthy free markets... by design?

Contrary Brin - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 15:02
Can we control - or at least guide and sway -- important processes that some call uncontrollable? 

Certainly not big, chaotic things like the weather -- though steering civilization away from suicidal climate damage may qualify.  But what about hugely complex things like a modern economy? Or a sapient mind?

Elsewhere I've described how most societies tried such control through priesthoods and kings and owner-lordly castes whose Guided Allocation of Resources - or GAR - had the advantage of simplicity, in much simpler times. The Pharaoh simply ordered a levy of 5000 men to appear, between planting and harvest seasons, and voila - you got a pyramid. Still, in general, GAR was at best clumsy, primitive and generally stupid.

Adam Smith extolled market alternatives to GAR, allowing the mass wisdom of many to replace the delusional certainty of a very few. It worked better at allocating capital and goods and services... though it also led many to espouse a mad exaggeration called Faith in Blind Markets - or FIBM. Elsewhere I show how most of those howling for purist FIBM are actually devout GAR-ists... they just want the allocation process dominated by a new cabal of owner-lords.

In another place, I describe how GAR is being pushed hard by those who want a return to 6000 years of hierarchy, such as the Chinese Communist elite, who envision themselves as newer, smarter, wiser pharaohs. We're being GAR'd from the left and GAR'd from the right.

But this time, let's start with an example of asserted control straight out of science fiction! 

== Laws of Robotics ==
Jack M. Balkin of Yale University Law School has proposed a variant on Asimov’s three laws of robotics. He’s not the first, of course. In this case, Balkin suggests rules for algorithmic systems that might have strong influence over both public and private life:
First Law: operators of robots, algorithms and artificial intelligence agents are information fiduciaries who have special duties of good faith and fair dealing toward their end-users, clients and customers.

Second, privately owned businesses who are not information fiduciaries nevertheless have duties toward the general public.

Third, the central public duty of those who use robots, algorithms and artificial intelligence agents is not to be algorithmic nuisances. 
While these are excellent desiderata that merit serious consideration, they kind of miss the elegant prioritization effect of Isaac’s original codes! Where one law kicks in only when the more important one is fully satisfied. (I may be the world’s expert on the Three Laws, after threading their many implications in FOUNDATION’S TRIUMPH.)  In other words, a venn diagram of Asimov-style laws shows each one nested inside the preceding one, like a Russian Matrioshka doll.
Instead, Prof Balkin tries for something entirely different, making his analogy to Asimov somewhat fraught. Aming at comprehensive coverage, his first two laws touch at the edges. This is good, instinctive legal parsing… and the proposals are desirable... but it bears little relationship to Asimov.
== Three Laws of Corporatics? ==

Another scholar (actually a member of this blog’s comment community: Larry Hart) formulated his off-take on the three laws, this one following the Asiomovian "Matrioshka pattern."  Three Laws of Corporatics. 
1) A corporation must do no *** harm to human beings

2) A corporation must act to fulfil its specified charter as long as doing so does not violate the First Law

3) A corporation must act to insure its continued viability [e.g. maximizing profit] 
as long as doing so does not violate the first or second laws.
Of course number 1 is impossible to comply to without specified metrics in *** that make a clear drive for positive sum outcomes, both net and overall, even if some human interests are retrievably set back. LH summarized:
1) Don't make us sorry we chartered you.
2) Do what we chartered you for.
3) Keep yourself capable of doing it.


Of course now we're also talking about Wild Algorithms... bits of autonomous code that are already... right now... spreading through the Internet, automatically augmenting their resources and trading services, even hiring humans to perform tasks! And yes, this sci fi scenario is already here. Implementation of Hart's three laws would be filled with vexing tradeoffs. We'd have to define "humans" (broadly, I hope) and what long term goals we will charter artificial entities to aim for. And many other issues. I'd hope for looseness within which we can fine tune, adapt, adjust our implementation values while retaining the core ones.

I do know we'll best begin by rediscovering Pericles and Ben Franklin and M.L. King and the Suffragists... and yes, Adam Smith.


== A long overdue rediscovery ==

Twenty years ago, I was a lonely voice, demanding that folks revive interest in Smith, who has long been distilled into a few catch phrases like "the Invisible Hand" that misled everyone about his brilliant, passionate reasonableness. Now, it seems Smith is all the rage, being repositioned back where he belongs, as the founder of "liberalism" in both the older and newer meanings of the word.

Nowhere is he more appreciated than at Evonomics, a site where moderate and smart scholars mix appreciation of creative market competition with compatible notions of public responsibility and a tide of wealth that truly lifts all boats. Those who study Smith are realizing (surprise!) that he despised above all the oligarchic owner lords who cheated in 99% of human cultures -- the same caste our American Founders rebelled against.

Here's an amazing slide show of quotations from brilliant modern economists who talk about ways to make market economics more sapient and avoid the one failure mode that always ruined it across 6000 years. How weird is it that the defenders of Smith and truly competitive-creative markets are almost all now on the moderate-pragmatic left?  Example:

"Adam Smith recognized that there is a moral realm in human affairs, and that there is more to human life, government, and policy than just economics or pure self-interest."
More accurately, Smith believed that economics could have boundary conditions and incentives that balance short term monetary rewards. A sane, decent and above-all sapient civilization — one that chooses to include “externalities” like the fate of future generations and the planet and a moral sense of fairness — can use foresight to adjust market parameters so the subsequent work of millions of buyers and sellers will solve all needs and problems organically.  
Those who promote an “invisible hand” of wise economics through the actions of a myriad dispersed and distributed buyers and seller… these folks are not entirely wrong! Markets do allocate capital and labor and goods and services far better than command (GAR) economies, whether the small cabal of allocators are royal cronies, a communist party, or a conspiring caste of monopolists and CEO golf buddies. 
 But any such system operates under goal and boundary conditions that reflect values. They may be those of a liberally flat-open-fair and forward-seeing society, or those of a conniving oligarchy, like the feudal masters of 6000 years - stupid and self-defeating lords whom Adam Smith despised, and against whom the Founders successfully rebelled.
Putting this in perspective is Lynn Stout, the Distinguished Professor of Corporate and Business Law at Cornell Law School, who joins an array of superb, modern economists questioning the obsessive and never-ever-once-right 
Alas, these concepts appear to be difficult to grasp, even by smart people. As we'll see in Part II of this series.



. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

Travel Itinerary Plus Photos

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 23:05
Hello, everyone! I’m here today to tell y’all about my upcoming travel schedule. On Tuesday, I leave for New York City, where I will be staying with my wonderful friends, Meg and Will. New York City is such an awesome place and I’m so happy to be going for the third year in a row. […]
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